You get out of bed and go to take that first step. OUCH!
A sharp pain hits your foot. You limp a few steps but before you are out the door, the pain is gone. After sitting at work for a couple hours, you get up for another cup of coffee and the pain returns.
It’s possible you are dealing with plantar fasciitis.
But what exactly is plantar fasciitis and what can we do about it?
The suffix -itis indicates inflammation. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia. This leads to the next question, what is the plantar fascia? Plantar is the bottom side of the foot and fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue. Putting those two together, the plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs from your heel to your toes, and it helps support the arch of your foot, stability of the foot, and is involved with normalized foot mechanics. Unfortunately, through a series of microtears from overstress and over stretch, the fascia can get inflamed and plantar fasciitis occurs.
Why exactly does plantar fasciitis occur is a great question. There are a few common risk factors to look at first. Generally, it will occur in people 40-70 years old. Activities such as running and dancing can increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Occupations that keep you on your feet also increase the risk for developing it. People who are overweight or obese place more stress on their feet and this can cause plantar fasciitis. Lastly, if you have abnormal foot posture or walking pattern, e.g. flat feet, high arches, this can increase risk as well.
Now what to do about it?
- It is important to keep your calves loose. When the calf muscles become tight, they will pull up on the achilles, which pulls up on the heel, which stresses the plantar fascia.
- Improving the strength of the arches of the feet can also reduce stress placed on the plantar fascia.
- Stretching your big toe backward (toward the top of your foot) can provide an excellent stretch on the plantar fascia and rolling your foot on a lacrosse ball is another great option.
- Orthotics can also help to normalize your foot if you have high arches or flat feet, thus reducing the stress on the plantar fascia.
Although plantar fasciitis can be a painful way to start the day, it is certainly treatable through a variety of stretches, exercises, and lifestyle modifications. If you feel you are suffering from plantar fasciitis, make an appointment with your local Physical Therapist and get back on your feet and walking pain free.
Alex Strahle, PT, DPT, CSCS graduated from the University of Evansville with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and a Doctor of Physical Therapy. He is currently a Physical Therapist in the Employer-Based Clinic setting for Tx:Team. Alex enjoys seeing patients return to an active lifestyle after treatment for their pain and dysfunction.